‘He needs someone who can tell him enough with the tweeting’
Migrants, Iran, healthcare, guns: what do Trump voters think of him one year on?
James Rowe: “The Iranians have shown themselves to be rational actors for thousands of years. They will accept tough conditions if Trump keeps his promises of negotiating from strength.” Photograph: John Breen
Siobhan, Sean and Deirdre McCafferty: “President Obama always weighed in and blamed the police any time there was a controversial shooting. President Trump doesn’t do that, he is more measured.” Photograph: John Breen
A year ago, reeling from the US election result, I spent a morning interviewing people who identified themselves as Trump supporters.
One year on, I wondered how these people were feeling politically, what were the highs and lows of the past year and what the future might hold. Those I spoke with again were James Rowe, a philosophy professor teaching at Baruch College; Siobhan McCafferty, a retired police officer whose parents came from Sligo and Clare; and Kevin Hughes, a businessman.They all voted for Trump last year.
They were all supportive of the administration’s immigration policy. Rowe, whose great, great grandmother was from Glasthule in Dublin, saw it as a central plank of the platform. “Immigration reform is vital if Trump is to keep his promises to the people who put him in office. We need to cut back drastically to protect the livelihoods of workers on the lowest rung of the social ladder. They are the people who are being hurt by globalist policies.”
Hughes, who is third-generation Irish, also listed the new impetus to reduce illegal immigration as a key achievement of the administration. He thought the president’s demeanour and apparent unpredictability was no bad thing when it came to foreign policy. “It’s a shift in the guilt paradigm – I always felt that we were apologising for existing under Obama. He was pushed around, there’s a red line, then there isn’t! They won’t push Trump around because they don’t know what he will do!”
For Rowe, Trump’s refusal to certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal was a highlight in foreign policy: “The Obama regime may have had to compromise too much because they were really chasing a deal, but the Iranians are not accountable enough under current inspections. I think opening this up again, and pressing for stricter controls and monitoring will add stability to the region.
“The Iranians have shown themselves to be rational actors for thousands of years. They will accept tough conditions if Trump keeps his promises of negotiating from strength, given Trump’s obvious willingness to stick to his guns, and the self-interest Iran has in brokering a peace rather than provoking a war they cannot win.”
The immediate benefit McCafferty felt from Trump’s election victory was that “it wasn’t open warfare on the police anymore. President Obama always weighed in and blamed the police any time there was a controversial shooting. President Trump doesn’t do that, he is more measured.” She cited the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson as an example. “That officer did nothing wrong, he was exonerated of any wrongdoing, yet President Obama condemned his actions.”
The lowlights had similar themes but were more varied. All three saw the inability to get a healthcare Bill through Congress as the key failure of the administration. This led to one of the more surprising things I heard from any of them and it came from James Rowe: “Obama was right: for eight years the Republican party defined themselves by opposition politics, all of their messaging and fundraising was about what they were against. They had seven years to devise a Bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and what did they produce?”
They place equal blame on the president for this, however, as he presented himself as the great negotiator. They were all vehement in their opposition to Obamacare. Siobhan McCafferty and her husband Sean, who was also a police officer, said that “as soon as the Bill was published, the insurance companies doubled the price of insurance. Obamacare is creeping socialism and Americans don’t want it.”
This was a consensus: government should have no part in running healthcare. Healthcare may be off the political agenda for now, but it will come up during the next congressional elections. When you promise something for seven years and don’t deliver, there will be a political price to pay.
Kevin Hughes’s lowlights were the tweeting: “He needs someone who can tell him enough with the tweeting, someone that can speak truth to power. It seems he doesn’t have anyone. I wish he would stop with the tweeting. If he could do that it would be a much less chaotic presidency, I mean I know he is an asshole but sometimes assholes get things done!”
James Rowe’s largest disappointment is failure to introduce tariffs, which he thinks would lead to a boon in manufacturing jobs by forcing foreign or domestic companies that sell into the American market to source their production here. “The United States thrived on protectionism in the 19th century, it is time to look at that model again. If he wants to keep his promise to bring jobs back that is how he could do it. “
When I asked about the president’s response to the white nationalist protests at Charlottesville, they all said that his statement about both sides, though clumsily expressed, was right. The white nationalists had a right to protest and the left went there looking for trouble.
I am writing this having just run the New York City marathon. After last week’s attack, the city had a heightened state of alert, with snipers on rooftops near the Staten Island ferry terminal and trucks full of sand along the route of the race. The whole city turned out to cheer in the rain and New York revealed all its multicultural glory.
I returned home to the news of another mass shooting, this time in Texas – 26 dead in a church. When gun control came up, there was either outright opposition or a fatalistic shrug that it can’t happen and wouldn’t do any good. For good or ill, the Second Amendment is the will of the American people and Trump has no interest in provoking the National Rifle Association.
A year after the election and Trump has no major legislative achievement to his credit. His base patiently wait for results. I asked if they thought he would be elected again? Rowe said: “If he can’t corral Congress to implement the agenda he ran on, to help the people he said he would help, why should he be re-elected?”